Saturday, August 22, 2009

Participate In Census, Church Tells Citizenry

The Catholic Church has thrown its weight behind the coming count on the Kenyan population to be held on the night of August 24, this year.

However, His Eminence John Cardinal Njue, the chairman of the Kenya Episcopal Conference cautions that the government must address the fears that have tagged the coming exercise.

In a signed statement, the church encourages all Kenyans to participate in the process.

"As Kenyan citizens we have rights and responsibilities to ensure we contribute to the common good of our country. This process is a necessary/prerequisite to an objective process of assignment of resources.

“The census is not an end in itself but a means of ensuring social and economic justice. It is important for good planning and delivery of services by the Government and other stake holders,” Cardinal Njue said in the statement.

Some people have expressed concerns over design of the questionnaires to be used to gather information during the count. Of concern are questions touching on ethnic background of the respondents, with some interest groups demanding exclusion of such questions. Other groups have threatened not to participate in the exercise citing lack of government’s response to their plights. In this category are Internally displaced persons as a result of the post-election violence in 2008.

“The Government should seriously address these fears as they are legitimate in our day and time,” said the cardinal.

Security issue has also cropped up dominantly especially during the exercise.

Cardinal Njue proposed that Census officials have clear identification and the Government should give practical assurance of security. It is not enough to promise police patrols as this has failed Kenyans in the past. “There must be practical and real signs of security, especially in these times of power rationing and black outs,” he said.

Currently, Kenya is undergoing power rationing as a result of drying rivers, which the country depends on its hydropower generation.

The government has said that the Enumerators will be in red T-shirts, with specific identification, and in company of officials from the provincial administration, including the village elders whom local people can easily identify, with police being on the ground to provide security, in the case of metropolitan centers such as Nairobi.

At the same time, the Cardinal appealed to Kenyans to see the collection of information such as on ethnicity or religion as a celebration of our beauty in diversity. “This should help to make us realize that the details are fundamental to data and equitable attention in planning,” he said.

As a way to build confidence with the questionnaire design, the government has made it optional for one to give out details of his/ her ethnic background during the census.

The government has moved in to dissuade misinformation arising from the exercise through massive media campaign, including use of paid adverts

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